While Blandings Castle sleeps in the summer sun, the Hon. Galahad Threepwood, brother of the Earl of Emsworth, is busily engaged in writing his Reminiscences, and they look set to be as warm as the weather, if not warmer. For Galahad has led a thoroughly misspent life, and his acquaintances can all too easily recall their past follies in his company. Reputations are at stake and even the nobility and gentry are beginning to panic. And while various attempts are made to prevent his stories seeing the light of day, none are more curious than the sensational kidnapping of Lord Emsworth's prize-winning sow, the Empress of Blandings....
©2011 The Trustees of the Wodehouse Estate. All rights reserved. (P)2011 P.G. Wodehouse
P.G. Wodehouse blends all the usual elements in "Summer Lightening", one of the "Blandings" novels. As expected, we find Clarence, the 9the Earl, his imperious sister Constance--daughter of 100 Earls--the eternally youthful Gallahad--the only distinguished member of the family--Beech, the butler, and an assortment of other characters who fill the slots in the standard Blandings formula: star-crossed lovers, impoverished suitors and the inevitable visitors to Blandings who find they must assume a disguise to secure entry into that favored realm. Wodehouse brings just enough fresh material to each installment in the series to keep it enjoyable, while trotting out enough of the old standby pieces to make one feel that one is safely on terra cognita.
The problem with this particular recording, in my opinion, is that John Wells lacks the remarkable talents of the other narrators one finds in the Audible library. Jonathan Cecil, Frederick Davidson and the absolutely pitch-perfect Nigel Lambert all manage to create distinct voices for each of the characters in these densely-populated works. John Wells' voice is pleasant enough in the general narration, but he does not create a unique voice for each of the characters--not even the main characters who occupy the majority of the book's focus.
It takes more than a sub-standard narrator to ruin Wodehouse, but I would recommend one of the recordings by the masters in lieu of this one.
I don't mean to repeat myself but I can't think of a better word--this is simply a delightful story, made even more delightful by the many-sided vocal talent of Mr. John Wells. From the rotundity of Beach to the ferret-face of Percy Pilbeam, everything is as vivid as if the listener was watching a movie. Better, in fact. A movie would have to cut out most of Wodehouse's narration, which is where most of the fun resides.
The volume under advisement contains, among other riches, a chorus girl posing as a million heiress, a stolen pig, a volume of memoirs that could lose Lady Constance Keeble all her friends, and one of the best drunk scenes in all of the Master's canon.
Like most of the Wodehouse in my collection, this is one I go back to again and again. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I suffer from some little-known form of dementia. But I enjoy listening to Wodehouse--especially when it's performed this flawlessly--over and over. He's one of the few humorists I know who can be funny without hurting anyone's feelings or slipping into bitterness or sarcasm. In the midst of the most violent, unhinged century on record, Pelham Grenville just went on writing funny stories. God bless him.
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